May 6, 2017,
Santo Domingo, D.N.
In the lectures he gave at the Pedro Mir Library of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) and in Baní, last Thursday and Friday, the National Journalism Prize winner in Puerto Rico, 2016, Omar Alfonso, warned that serious Damage caused by coal ash deposited in Arroyo Barril, Samaná, and Puerto Rico, will be repeated in the province of Peravia, with the start of operations of the Punta Catalina coal plants.
The renowned communicator revealed that as a consequence of the impact of coal ash deposited in Arroyo Barril, Samaná, between 2003 and 2004, there were abortions in this community, a high increase in respiratory diseases, heart attack and death due to that cause, and genetic malformations in fetuses and newborns.
These cases were documented before the court of Delaware, USA, and to avoid going to trial, the Puerto Rico AES corporation responsible for depositing the ashes in that location caused the Dominican State to pay, on April 4 of last year, $ 37 million to the lawyers of 41 residents of Arroyo Barril.
Journalist Alfonso explained that the Dominican government paid this compensation as a result of the agreement signed with AES in 2007 when this company gave $ 6 million to the national authorities as compensation for the ash deposit brought from Puerto Rico.
This contract stipulated that in return for receiving compensation, the Dominican government would assume any future claim in lieu of AES.
He pointed out that the case of Arroyo Barril has a transcendental importance because it has been possible to concretely establish the causal links between the contamination of the ashes and the damages to the health of the people, particularly of mothers and infants.
“The National Journalism Prize I received last year for these reports was largely due to the shame felt by the Puerto Rican society because of the serious damage that had resulted in bringing such waste to a paradise like Arroyo Barril from Puerto Rico,” said Alfonso.
He claimed that what was important in what happened in Arroyo Barril, as well as in Manzanillo, Montecristi, where coal ash was also deposited during those years, is that it has proved that this material is toxic and seriously damages the health of the people who expose themselves to it.
According to the communicator, these ashes contain heavy metals and other toxic substances in a proportion up to 9 thousand times more than the level allowed by environmental standards.
“That is the case of arsenic, chromium, mercury, thallium, calcium oxide, sulfur trioxide, lead, and zinc, all harmful to the human organism,” he said.
He explained that in Puerto Rico a very important movement has been generated to reject these ashes and their impacts, obtaining that the agenda of the current legislature of the Senate a motion to ban the deposit of this waste and its use on the island.
He said that since 2004, as a result of AES being unable to continue exporting coal ash to the Dominican Republic, until 2011, two million tons of ash were deposited on virgin land in three municipalities of Puerto Rico.
He said that the company keeps exposed to the air more than 450 thousand tons of ash of coal that is known as “the AES mountain range”, that every day grows with new deposits.
He noted that Article 6.2 of the AES contract of Puerto Rico states that there would never be ashes deposited in the territory of Puerto Rico and that they would be transferred to the place of origin of the coal that in this case is Colombia.
“However, the company violated this contractual commitment without the authorities having sanctioned this breach, provoking the indignation of the population,” he said.
The conferences of the laureate journalist were offered within the framework of the launch of the publication containing the papers and debates of the international video conference and panel of experts on the conversion to natural gas of Punta Catalina held last December 7 last Under the auspices of the Institute of Lawyers for the Protection of the Environment (INSAPROMA) and the National Committee to Combat Climate Change (CNLCC).
During these events, spoke to the audience; in addition to Omar Alfonso, the communication and environmentalist Ingrid Paulino, who was in charge of the presentation of the publication, Dr. Carlos Sánchez of the Faculty of Health Sciences of the UASD, lawyer Euren Cuevas, Executive director of the Institute of Lawyers for the Protection of the Environment (INSAPROMA) and Enrique de León, leader of the National Committee to Combat Climate Change (CNLCC).
A large audience participated in these events, made up of academics, electrical engineers, economists, businessmen, trade union leaders and civil society, environmentalists and community leaders.
In the activity held at the UASD, experts on the subject came and took part in the debate; José Luis Moreno San Juan, Juan R. Cid, Eduardo Sagredo, Pedro Silverio, Juan Cid, Conrado Depratt, Franklin Reyes, Luis Carvajal, Ángel Moreta, among others.
NATIONAL COMMITTEE ON COMBATING CLIMATE CHANGE, CNLCC